My favourite piece of art came from a museum.

I stole it.

It was the late 80’s. I was tromping around downtown Toronto with some friends when I spotted King Tut’s golden sarcophagus on banners outside the ROM. The caption: “Get an Afterlife. Come to the Museum”. I was smitten. I headed for the gift shop, looking for a poster. They were sold out.

That evening, on the GO train back to the ‘burbs, I sat down, looked up, and there it was. My poster. Clearly the gods of ancient Egypt were smiling down on me. Clearly I was meant to have that poster. And so, after the train reached it’s last stop and the car emptied out, the boy king left with me.

And here I am, 20 years later, sneaking into museums without paying. What can I say? Venerable cultural edifices bring out my inner delinquent. I could tell you about the sneaky back door* into the Museum of Civilization, the one next to the river, but clambering over those rocks with a stroller is not fun. Trust me.

Instead, here are a 6 ways to enjoy Ottawa’s museums, without paying a cent.

1) The Ottawa Public Library lends passes for the Museums of Civilization, Science and Technology, Nature, and the National Gallery. The passes cover a family of 4-5 (the OPL catalogue has the specifics for each pass). At the time of writing, about half a dozen of each were checked-in at various branches throughout the city. So why not play museum roulette: pick a pass that’s available at a branch near you, and off you go! Just search for ‘Museum Pass’ in the online catalogue.

2) Admission to the Museum of Civilization, including the Children’s Museum, is free every Thursday from 4 until 8pm. It is also free on Canada Day (July 1) and Remembrance Day (November 11).

3) The Museum of Nature is also free on Thursday afternoons (from 5 to 8 pm), as well as on Earth Day (April 22), International Museum Day (May 18), and Canada Day (July 1).

4) The Museum of Science and Technology doesn’t have a weekly freebie, but it does offer free admission on International Museum Day (May 18), and Canada Day (July 1).

5) The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is free from 4 to 5pm. Every day. How cool is that?

6) The National Gallery (including the Museum of Contemporary Photography) is free on Thursdays after 5, and for children under 12 all the time.

These are the big ones, but there are also smaller community museums scattered throughout the region. What is in your neighbourhood? Which museums are your kids’ favourites? Where do you like to go on a rainy day?

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* This account of a sneaky back door into the Museum of Civilization is a work of fiction. It is a product of the writer’s imagination and is not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual apertures, ingresses, entryways or portals into the Museum of Civilization, it’s related properties or outbuildings is entirely coincidental. But if you know of any real ones, let me know, ‘cuz Thursdays don’t always work for me.